Saturday, March 17, 2018

Mahou Shonen Just Say No Chapter Thirteen



Misa Jiang
Pretty Fighter Ribbon Green was in the running to become Blade’s favorite.  That was what it told her, anyway. She was in the running, if Ribbon Red couldn’t be found, to become Blade’s best friend.  It was told to her in a matter-of-fact tone, but she could tell anyway that this was just Blade’s way of masking how worried it really was for Red’s well-being.  Where could she have been for the past few weeks? Nobody had any idea what could have become of the five magica who’d vanished off the face of the planet while on a mission to investigate another mysterious disappearance.

Green knew that it couldn’t be the same, though.  That much was clear from the evidence. The fact that Oh One could still tell that those five were in Japan was enough for her, though perhaps if she had been privy to anything but texts and phone conversations from the only other sapient species on this planet, she’d think differently about the situation.  As it was, she was concerned for those magica, but she was sure that they’d turn up at least. Would they turn up okay, would they turn up unchanged? That was up for debate, but why did she have to be involved in those things anyway?

Pretty Fighter Ribbon Green, known to most as Misa Jiang, had bigger problems than worrying about magica in Japan, when she had to worry more about citizens in Japantown.  As far as she could tell, she was the only magical girl currently working to protect San Francisco; And she was blind. There were no shortage of magica throughout California, and before she had contracted they were willing to pop over to fight some monsters if they were in a position to, but now the burden of guarding the city rested with her.

Pretty Fighter Ribbon Green
She got outside help sometimes, but sometimes wasn’t enough to keep her from feeling bitter.  This was the biggest responsibility she’d had to deal with in her entire life. She had contracted because it was something to do; she lived with her family who paid all of her expenses and would never take independence as an answer with her disability a bigger hindrance in their minds than in hers.  She had a part time job anyway, but she only worked three shifts a week, and those were in the mornings. She didn’t count on how many monsters there would be, though.

She didn’t even have time for her other Magic anymore.  The card game, Magic The Gathering, that is. After magica had become a real and feared phenomenon in this world, the game came under a degree of scrutiny, but it wasn’t so easy to shake nerd culture, and the game couldn’t exactly be changed at this point to reflect the concept of magic suddenly becoming such a widespread icon of misery.  The controversy died down, and the connection was forgotten. Misa had at least expected to have Fridays free to meet up with her friends at her favorite comic book store to play, but monsters ate up all her time. If she ignored them, though, they’d eat up all her friends.

“Were you expecting to hide your mark with kneesocks? That’s a bonehead move if I ever heard of one.  Socks slip,” A voice broke Misa out of her thoughts, and she froze where she stood. She moved without a cane or a guide dog, mostly relying on landmarks to find her way around. Right now, she was holding onto a railing that she was very familiar with.  This voice was not familiar at all.

“I’m not trying that hard to hide,” Misa answered with a shrug, “I’ll cover up out of courtesy, but what do I care what a stranger thinks of me?  Anyone whose opinion I want to hear already knows,” She paused, then let a smirk onto her face, “Well, unless you wanna thank me for protecting the city.”

“...Thank you indeed,” Another, equally unfamiliar voice said, “You’ve kept it well, Ribbon Green.”

Misa froze to hear her name.  Should she have been using a glamor after all? It seemed unnecessary when she was alone all of the time, but-

“Allow me to introduce ourselves,” The original voice spoke again, “We’re Angels.”

“Angels…?” Misa questioned, freezing up even more.  She’d heard of Angels. They were a duo who hovered around the one-hundred mark.  Their power was strong and they fought plenty of monsters, but they also had a tendency to kill humans, and had once or twice offed a particularly abusive magica, “Aren’t you from Nagasaki?  What are you doing in San Francisco? Uh… You barely have accents, so are you transformed right now?”

“We are.  There’s nobody around, and unlike you, we use glamors,” The second voice answered, “We’ve decided to move, for reasons relating to our lives as humans more than our lives as magica.  With some false papers to fudge our ages, there’s more job opportunities for us here.”

“However,” The first voice again, “We would never move in on your territory without consulting you first.  You’ve been doing a great job… We would understand if you want to keep the spoils of war for yourself.”

“Truth be told, I was just thinking to myself how nice it would be if I had some help around here.  It feels like I’m fighting multiple monsters every single night around here…” Misa sighed, putting more of her weight against the railing, “Hell, if you could at least take Friday nights, that’d make you the bomb dot com.”

“Ah…” The first member of Angels seemed a bit surprised at how easily Misa decided to let them in, but of course she wasn’t about to look a gift horse in the mouth, “Well, thank you, Green.  That’s very kind of you.”

---
“I mean, not really,” Misa said, shrugging her shoulders. Despite never having been able to witness visual social cues, she’d picked up on using them in high school with the help of a boyfriend who may have been more interested in manipulating her body than actually teaching her anything. That was a weird thing he was into, and her blindness just gave the opportunity for her to indulge him. She was glad to have it, though. Speaking felt more natural with physical cues, “You’re helping me, here. Anyway, what can I call each of you? Since as magical girls, you have the same name and all.”

“That’s a good question,” The second member of Angels said, “Using our real names would be a bad idea, since people think that we’re dead. You can call me Xizhi, like the Sage of Calligraphy.”

“Jeeze, that’s specific. Did you already think about this?” The other one teased, “You really thought you’d need a codename? Well, okay, I thought of one too. Addams.”

“Like the Addams Family?” Misa asked, “That’s edgy. I didn’t know Nagasaki had Goths.”

“I’m not goth, I just like dead bodies,” Addams defended herself, “And it isn’t edgy! My own childhood dreams aren’t edgy! Xizhi, tell her that I’m not edgy!”

“She’s absolutely edgy,” Xizhi said, “Anyway, Green. We’ll take responsibility for Friday nights, and the rest of the week, we can cooperate with you. As long as there aren’t too many others passing through or anything, it’s just two different distributors between us, so even level ones can still give us equal rewards, if I’m remembering the collaborative rules right.”

“Mm,” Misa groaned, “Cooperation? I mean, yeah, sure, sometimes. I’m just super tired, though. It’d be nice if you could just handle it yourselves some nights, just so I can finally catch up on sleep.”

“Er... Okay,” Addams said, “That’s kind of weird, you know. Most magica don’t want to lose any opportunity to get stronger or get the rewards for fighting a monster. Are you sure?”

“I don’t need to get stronger or collect any magic, or other rewards, or anything,” Misa said, “I don’t have any goals. I became a magical girl because I wanted to make my life more interesting, not for any other reason. Seems like everybody else has something they want to accomplish with magic, but I can’t help thinking that’s a good way to end up screwing yourself over. Monkey’s Paw and all that.”

“Huh?” Addams questioned, “You mean, you became a magica without any ulterior motive, even knowing how bad it is?”

“Yeah,” Misa said, “Bite me. I don’t care. I wanted to fight monsters as a hobby, then it took over my life. Seriously, the fact that you two are here now? That’s a total relief. I’m grateful as Hell.”

“We’re glad to help,” Xizhi said, “We have our own reasons to want to fight monsters. We can take over any time that you need us to.”

~~~~

“Hey, hey,” Zhou heard a voice he wasn’t expecting to hear anytime prior to completing his goal, but it was clear as day, “Whatever you do, don’t turn around, okay?”

“...Mayu?” Zhou asked, hesitant, as if the voice would disappear if he identified it.

“Keep moving and don’t turn around,” Mayu’s voice said, “If you stop walking or if you turn and look, then I won’t be Mayu anymore. I’ll be a big scary monster, worse than any of the ones that you’ve fought before. So just keep going. I’ll talk to you from here.”

“Okay,” Zhou said, just now taking in his surroundings as he started to walk. It seemed to be an awfully manmade place. Smooth floors and smooth walls, and barely any light to help him see those things.  It was unsettling, hearing his own steps echo and Mayu’s behind him, “What’s going on here?”

“I don’t know,” Mayu said, “I actually don’t have any idea why you need to keep moving forward, and not look behind you.  I just know that it’s what you have to do. So how have you been?”

“Not very good,” Zhou said, “But I’m trying my best.”

“Why?” Mayu asked, “For my sake?  I don’t think I ever did anything to deserve people trying for me, you know.  It isn’t as if I ever tried a day in my life.”

“Sometimes people just love other people,” Zhou said, “And trying doesn’t need to factor into it at all.  You were good enough at something to get into the school that killed you. And I know that you had friends who cherished you just as much as I did.  You definitely deserve people trying for your sake.”

“You can say that,” Mayu said, “But I know that you’ve thought it too.  I’m useless. I was useless. And because you became a magical boy for my sake, my uselessness is rubbing off on you.  It’s my fault you’re so tired all the time. It’s because you’re doing it to bring me back. Why would you want someone like me, who’s only brought you trouble, in your life again?”

“Because you didn’t deserve to die,” Zhou said.

“There are plenty of people who didn’t deserve to die.  Even just in Korekara. Why not save them all?” Mayu asked.

“Because I knew you.  I didn’t know them,” Zhou answered, “And I only just got enough power for you, after months as a magical boy.  Who knows, maybe by the time I find your body, I can bring back some of the others too, maybe I’ll have enough power then.  Can you tell me who to save?”

“No,” Mayu said, “You didn’t know them, after all.  Neither did I, really. I didn’t make friends. I just know that there was no way everyone who died there but me deserved it.  I might have deserved it. I never did anything to make my life worth living, after all. I just sat around, playing games, all the time.  The only thing I ever did for you was pick a lock. That’s it, isn’t it? There’s no reason for you to have any desire to bring me back. You have so much power now, no lock could stand in your way.  That’s all I was ever good for.”

“Mayu, don’t talk about yourself that way…” Zhou said, wanting to turn around and shake her by the shoulders, “Were you always this self-deprecating.”

“Don’t you turn around,” Mayu said, “Only a little.  Not this much, for sure. But that was the real me. Wouldn’t it be funny?  Wouldn’t it be funny if what I’m saying to you is what you think of me? What you’ve secretly thought of me all along?  Like you’re only trying to bring me back because you don’t like how it feels to live your life without a parasite like me?”

“Shut up,” Zhou said.

“You could make me shut up,” Mayu said, “If you turned around.  But then you’d have to fight an especially horrifying monster, so I guess you just have to decide which is the lesser of two evils.  By the way, I forgot to mention earlier. Walking’s a little too slow. You might want to go faster.”

“Okay,” Zhou said and sped up his step, continuing down the seemingly endless corridor.  Occasionally it would seem a little less empty, like there was something on the ground, but when he turned his eyes to look it would be gone.  A mouse trap, an empty water bottle, a frog? He thought for sure that he saw all of those things, but never in his direct line of sight, “Do you know how I ended up here?”

“Don’t you?” Mayu asked.

“Only a little,” Zhou said, “I was in the train station, and then I was here.  I don’t know how this happened, though. I can’t imagine how I got from point A to point B.”

“That’s dumb,” Mayu said, “You’re really dumb.  Did you know that? Did you know that you’re really dumb, if you can’t even figure out how you ended up here with me?”

“Is this the afterlife?” Zhou asked, “Am I dead too, and as punishment for becoming a magical boy, I’m with you, but it’s not quite you, and I can’t turn to see if it’s you or an impostor?”

“That’d be a really special Hell,” Mayu said, “But no, you’re still alive.  For now, anyway. It’s not that easy to kill a magica, after all.”

“I wish that I understood what was happening here,” Zhou said, and it was more a matter of fact than anything else.  It didn’t demand or even ask for any sort of response, it was just a statement tossed out into the echo chamber before him.  He wished he understood. And that was it. Mayu became quiet behind him, and all he could hear was footsteps. His footsteps, running.  Hers, walking behind him. Both sets, reflecting off of the smooth walls and ceilings of the most empty place that Zhou hade ever been.

This went on for what seemed like forever.  Zhou, for once in his life, wasn’t getting tired at all.  Nothing was changing either. It was like an eternal trek to nowhere, with the one thing he’d been chasing after this whole time trapped, unobtainable, behind him.  He decided this had to be a vision, but he wouldn’t underestimate the power of visions. He knew that Lionhardt, who wasn’t very strong at all, could create a pocket dimension.  Then there was Red’s ability, he thought. She could make an illusory maze, but she was limited to mazes, right? This was not a maze. A maze had to have turns. Had to be confusing in nature.

This was a corridor.  As strange a corridor as it was, corridors were not confusing.  There was nowhere to turn. Zhou didn’t think that Red would betray them at this point, either.  She wouldn’t stand to benefit from it in any way. Betraying just him? No way, he didn’t do anything to get on her bad side.  He’d never done any of the things that she seemed to think were worthy of punishment. Though he supposed she could just be bloodthirsty after all, but if that was the case, why wait this long to act?  He knew that while he and others may have been higher ranked than her for various reasons, if it came down to a fight, even four against one, she would win. She was beyond capable even before she became a Magical Girl.

If she wanted them dead, or wanted to do whatever this was, then there was no reason for her to wait to do it.  She gained nothing from earning their trust and then betraying it outside of a fast food joint in a train station.  There would be far better times to turn on them than this.

“You’re thinking again, aren’t you?” Mayu asked.

“How could you tell?” Zhou answered with a question.

“You’re slowing down,” Mayu said, then with some urgency, “You need to run!”

“Why do I need to run?” Zhou asked.

“You need to know when to run away,” Mayu said, “Because it might not be me behind you, you know.  I could have been the horrifying monster this whole time, but with your little sister’s voice, right?  You know that’s possible. It’s probably more plausible than this being me.”

“I know it’s not the real you,” Zhou said, “But it’s not just to voice.  You’re still Mayu in some ways. If I had to kill you, though, I could do it.  There’s definitely one thing that makes me certain that there’s no way you’re the real Mayu.”

“Why’s that?” The fake Mayu asked, innocently.

“Because,” A different voice sounded out from behind Zhou, and on instinct, he turned around, only to bring his arms up to protect his face when he saw an incredibly bright light, and after the sound of an explosion, that voice spoke again, “The real Mayu would have given a verbal tic by now.  Am I right, Zhou-kun?”

“Madara-kun…?” Zhou questioned, peering past the burnt wreckage of what looked like a crash test dummy on the ground to see Tsukune was standing beside one of his turrets back down the corridor, “Are you… Really you?”

“Last I checked, yeah,” Tsukune said, lifting one of his hands to look it over, “But, wow.  I am offended. You’re actually seeing me, instead of me reskinned to somebody else in your life.  Are you actually intimidated by me?”

“I mean, kind of?  You were one of Mayu’s friends, you probably knew her really well, and you’re also strong, and cool, so… I’d definitely say that you’re intimidating,” Zhou said, “But what’s that supposed to mean, anyway?”

“I figured out how to hop between visions and snap you guys out of them,” Tsukune said, “But for everyone else, I didn’t look like me, I looked like somebody else who’d already shown up in the vision.  I guess you wouldn’t have anyone but Mayucchi in yours though, right? If that’s the case, then it makes sense that I’d appear as myself. Mayu couldn’t get shot by Mayu. Anyway, you’re the last one. Come on.”

“How’d you snap yourself out of your vision?” Zhou asked, “And what are these things, anyway?”

“Huh?  Oh, right.  Well, it was pretty easy for me.  I just disobeyed whatever the people in the vision told me.  Stay there, and I’d go somewhere. Point me in a direction, I went the other way.  Made the whole thing kind of disjointed, like if you watched a movie by flipping at random through the scene select screen instead of just hitting play.  Whatever these things are, which I really don’t know, they were made ahead of time. Screw with the natural order of things and it’s bound to fall to pieces,” Tsukune explained, tapping his turret and letting it dissipate into specks of magic, which he caught in his hand.

“Who’d do something like this to us?” Zhou asked, “And why?”

“Let’s get out of here and meet up with the others,” Tsukune said, “Then we can all put our heads together and figure it out.  Hey, you’re lucky, by the way. You cracked the vision’s integrity way sooner than everyone else did. They’re all at least mildly traumatized.  You pulled the long straw this time around.”

“Forgive me if I’m not jumping for joy,” Zhou said, “How do I know you’re not also some weird part of this vision, huh?”

Tsukune just stared at him for almost a full minute, then shrugged before speaking, “I mean, you don’t.  It’s not like I have any way of proving that I’m the real Tsukune Madara or anything. But even if I am just part of the vision, what’s it matter?  You could at least try letting me take you out of here. If it doesn’t work, you didn’t really lose anything.”

“That’s fair,” Zhou admitted, then stepped toward Tsukune and held out a hand, “Fine, then.  If you’re really Madara-kun. Take me by the hand and lead me to the land.”

“Yeah, whatever,” Tsukune said, then grabbed Zhou’s wrist and wrenched it toward the ground, dragging him down.  And just a moment later, they were no longer in a corridor at all, but what seemed to be a normal hotel room. There were two queen beds.  Kanoshi was sitting on one, Yuuri on the other, and Sayaka was sitting at the desk in the corner, “Welcome back to the world of the living.”

“Hey guys,” Zhou admitted, this did seem real.

“Hey,” Sayaka waved from the corner, standing up as she did, “So we’re all here now?”

“Looks like it,” Kanoshi said, rolling his shoulders, “Tsukkun, it didn’t take very long for you to get Zhou-san…”

“Yeah, cause unlike all of you buffoons, it didn’t take very long for his vision to crack,” Tsukune explained, “Ny’all got issues.”

“Ny’all?” Sayaka questioned.

“I thought I’d make my statement less offensive through humor,” Tsukune said, “Did it work?”

“Not really,” Yuuri said, “But I mean, you’re right anyway.”

“I am,” Tsukune said, “If you weren’t so caught up in your problems, then maybe you wouldn’t have even needed me to rescue you.  That’s a serious issue, clearly. You need to learn to distance yourself from your fears and troubles.”

“That’s easy for you to say, without knowing the majority of what we saw, or what it means to us,” Sayaka said, “It’s not like I’m easily frightened, you know.”

“I’d wager that what I saw was more objectively terrifying than any of you,” Tsukune said, “So I don’t need to know what you saw or what it means to you.  I was able to break my own vision, and none of you were. That means that in at least one way, I’m stronger than all of you.”

Sayaka scowled and grabbed at the collar of her shirt, but Yuuri jumped up and grabbed the back of her hand, pressing it against her collarbone with enough force to keep her from following through, at least for a few seconds while he hissed, “You better not transform here.  I’m pretty sure that none of us can exactly afford to be on the hook for property damage. There’s no monster around, so even just pulling your weapon here would cause some permanent bullshit.”

“He’s an asshole!” Sayaka protested, shouting past Yuuri, “Who do you think you are, calling yourself stronger than me, huh? Even if we just go by the official rankings, I seriously outclass you!”

“Yeah, probably,” Tsukune said, turning away with his arms crossed, “But you’re kind of an idiot emotionally, you know.  Get a handle on your temper, and then maybe we can say you outclass me in emotional fortitude. But evidently, I’m the most stable one here, and you just have to accept that fact.”

“It’s true,” Kanoshi said, standing up now and looking around at everybody, “Tsukkun is the only one who was able to break out of his own vision.  The rest of us just stumbled through them, exactly what whoever did that to us wanted, probably.”

“I might know who,” Sayaka said as Yuuri released her, clenching her fists at her sides instead, “I’m the most veteran magica out of the lot of us, so I’ve kinda heard some stories about a very weird magical girl.  She does everything she can to stay exactly at the thirtieth worst spot in the rankings, and her powers work in kind of a unique way, like all Desire Train magica. She doesn’t get magic power from defeating enemies, but from instilling fear.  She’s called Future Style.”

“Thanks for the introduction, darling,” Someone’s voice sounded out in the hotel room, and then a magical girl in an outfit that resembled something that a pop star whose gimmick was to ‘be weird’ threw open the door of the wardrobe from inside.  She stepped out and put a hand on her hip, looking at them all over dark sunglasses. There was a lot of black in her outfit, but it was unmistakably strange, “But, seriously. Not one of you actually finished the shit I prepared for you. At least I didn’t try that hard or anything.”

“What the Hell was that all about!?” Yuuri snapped in her direction, “How did you know all of that about us?”

“I don’t know anything about you,” Future Style said, “And I don’t care, either.  My powers did all the work. And if you want to know why you, then that’s easy.  Five magica all in one place?  It’s a goldmine. Magica have always got stronger fears than humans do!  With a human, I run the risk of using more magic scaring them than I’ll get for it.  Magica? I always make a profit. And that’s it.”

“You put us all through our own personal Hells, just because you wanted to get some magic power?” Kanoshi asked, “Wow… I never thought I’d say this to a person, but you’re truly rotten.”

“Wow, I’m so hurt,” She said, holding a hand to her chest, “I’ve never been called anything worse than rotten in my entire life.  Anyway, yeah. It’s just what I do. Don’t like it? Too bad, so sad. I don’t care.”

“Rukkun and I should have both been able to tell that you were here,” Sayaka said, “But we couldn’t detect you or your magic.  How exactly did you accomplish that?”

“I promised I’d keep that a secret,” Future Style said, “But you know, what good’s a promise anyway?  I guess I won’t break it. I’ll bend it, though,” She flipped her hair back over her shoulder, then gave her answer, “There exists a magica whose entire power is to conceal the location of another one.  They made it seem to the distributors like I was still back in Boston, when I came here to see what kinda fear I could drum up from numbers four and nine while I heard you were traveling together… Oh, and I guess the rest of you, too.”

“I’m number twenty-fucking-seven!” Sayaka shouted out, “I can understand excluding fifty and sixty-two, but I’m still a pretty rare find.”

“I don’t give a shit,” Future Style said, then turned away from the group, toward the door, “Anyway, this is a hotel in Nagasaki, so it’s not like I even really interfered with your whole shitty mission.  Unless you look at a calendar I guess. I’m done with you guys, I’m out.”

“Wait!” Kanoshi called to her, and she stopped where she stood, but didn’t turn to look at him, “How did you know that we’d be traveling together far enough ahead of time to come here and plan this?”

“Tch,” She scoffed, raising a hand as she kept walking, “Pretty sure you can figure that our without an answer from me.  If you can’t, I guess you really are dumbasses. Seeeya!”

And with that, she was gone.  Yuuri ran to the door and opened it, but despite only hesitating for a second, she was nowhere to be seen out in the hallway.  He stepped back and shut the door again, sighing as he turned back to his teammates, “What a bitch.”

“She said that we shouldn’t look at a calendar,” Tsukune said, then reached into his pocket, finding his phone was completely dead.  He looked to the pile of bags in the corner of the room, then retrieved his charger. It only took him a minute to get it powered up, to find that the date read September fifteenth.  They’d left Tokyo in July. He muttered to the others, “Well, whatever those visions were, time was definitely weird in them. We lost three months.”

“Three months?” Yuuri asked, then groaned, covering his face, “Well, I’m definitely fired.  From my day job at least.”

“Me too,” Kanoshi said, sitting back down on one of the beds, “I guess we’ll both just have to find something else, somehow.”

“Here’s a hot idea,” Sayaka said, “Stealing.  I mean I wouldn’t recommend it if you can avoid it, but damn is it easy when you’re a magica.  Just follow the big rule, right? You steal from big rich chain stores, nothing that’s local and struggling.”

“I won’t need to do that,” Yuuri said, “Like I said, I’m losing my day job.  There’s always more work to be found, it’s just exhausting.  So let’s just drop it, okay?”

“...Okay,” Sayaka said, then changed the topic on her own, “Regardless of our lost time-”

“Oh, thank God,” Tsukune interrupted her, and she turned to glare at him.  Her glare only grew more intense when he elaborated, “SIF didn’t have a Maki event during our lost time.”

“Nobody cares about your trash waifu, Madara!” Sayaka snapped, then took a deep breath to calm herself before continuing her statement, “Anyway.  We’re in Nagasaki now. Has anyone seen Blade?”

“I guess that it didn’t get captured with us,” Zhou said, “Do we really need your distributor here?  We can investigate without it.”

“Yeah, we do,” Sayaka said, “It’s my friend, and while you’re all adults, I’m a teenager.  I need some trustworthy supervision around you guys,” She noted, then rolled her eyes, “Not that you’re competent enough to be a threat to me, if we’re being honest.”

“Even without competence as a factor,” Tsukune said, “I’m pretty sure Zhou-kun is the only one who even might like girls.  You couldn’t have picked a safer group of adult men to hang around.”

“I totally could have,” Sayaka said, “A group of yakuza, who I could actually rely on in a fight, maybe?  And that’s just off the top of my head. I get your point, though. And my point? We need to put this bullshit behind us and focus on what we came here for.  And we need a Distributor to point us in the right direction, so, Madara-kun? Since you’ve actually got your phone charged, call one of them. I’d prefer Blade, obviously, but I guess it’s your choice who to trust.”

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Mahou Shonen Just Say No Chapter Twelve


"SugarcaneSugarcane!" Rose Elmore exclaimed, reaching her arms out for the distributor that she'd befriended as it jumped up into her lap.  It felt particularly gritty to the touch, as if its fur was completely full of sand, "Hey, it's been a few weeks.  Where've you been?"
"I've been around," It shook its head, leaning against Rose, "Two weeks ago, Oh One and I got news that some of our magica have gone missing.  We went back to Japan to investigate, since our teleports had charged again, but with no luck we came back here, since we did tell Lani that we'd be around for a while..."
Rose Elmore
"I missed you," Rose groaned, petting the thing, "You're so nice to talk to," Rose was a human, but unlike most humans, she was able; or rather, cursed to remember monster attacks even when they were defeated.  Usually, any humans caught in the pocket dimension would either die quietly at the monster's hands if it wasn't defeated in time, or forget about the attack if it was.  Rose was one of the few who recalled things which happened while the pocket dimension was active, and that was absurd at times.  She remembered dying several times. 
 SugarcaneSugarcane had been the one to explain to her why those situations happened, though it couldn't offer an explanation on how Rose was able to remember those things which most humans never did.  Nonetheless, it reassured her to know that it wasn't just nightmares or hallucinations of a bizarre kind, but actual incidents which went undetected by society.  Rose understood how humanity hated magica, if the only attacks that humans would remember were the ones that failed to be stopped.
A monster who was left unchecked for too long, or who killed off all of its combatants, would eventually fade out of existence, but not before causing a level of destruction similar to a strong earthquake or hurricane.  Rose had never experienced an undefeated monster, though.  For the past year and a half, since the monsters had first started attacking, there had always been Graveyard, and a couple of months later, Uamake, which was lucky as the monsters seemed to become more powerful.
Only Graveyard and Uamake, though.  Rose lived up in the more temperate, mountainous region of Hawaii, better known as 'The Big Island'.  Those two magica fought to protect the entire island chain, and they'd never failed to stop a monster.  Never forfeited or failed to engage, and obviously, never died.
As capable as they were, Rose worried, and she'd been thinking for a long time that she ought to do something, anything to help, but she'd never come in contact with a distributor.  Never until SugarcaneSugarcane came back to visit those two, who were both its magica, and happened to encounter Rose and her stand-out level of bizarre self-awareness in the midst of a monster attack.  After that, they'd become friends, but it had never asked Rose if she wanted to become a magical girl.
"There's been a lot of magica disappearing lately, huh?" Rose questioned, kicking her legs out over the fence she was seated on.  She lived on a ranch, and the cows wandering around in the pen behind her were friendly, even to the strange ugly cat, "I heard about it on the news, and now this..."
Sugarcanesugarcane said, "Yeah, that's true.  I'm really worried, actually.  Nothing like this happened in any of the universes I went to before, and Oh One contacted the council.  They've never seen anything quite like this, even in truly human universes.  All they told us was that things on this level of strangeness are common in this sort of world, but that they couldn't explain the actual situation in any detail."
Rose sighed, shaking her head, "Go figure, that our universe would end up getting so screwed up, yeah?"
Sugarcanesugarcane agreed, "None of us were prepared for this.  That's the scariest part of this all... We have no clue what we're doing, not really.  Every distributor in this universe has only ever worked with less-conscious universes in the past."
"...Hey, what makes you move on from one universe to another?" Rose asked.
"That depends.  Sometimes the universe doesn't need us anymore.  Sometimes, after centuries, the world ends.  The thing is, with this universe, we'll probably stick around for at least a thousand years.  The monsters will eventually become too strong to defeat anymore, and everything will fall to ruin... And we'll move on to another universe that's recently been introduced to monsters and magic."
Rose looked up at the sky before she gave another response, "So sooner rather than later, those things will get more powerful than Uamake and Graveyard can handle?  That website's saying that the island chain's in for a lot of level five and up monsters..."
"Why are you looking at Ribbon's site?" Sugarcanesugarcane questioned, but answered her question anyway, "That's right, though.  Those two are strong, indeed, Uamake is strong beyond belief... But even she has limits.  Her strength level is probably equal to that of a level six.  Fizzy Pop, Goddess, and Prince Horace are equal to a level seven; the only way to defeat a monster is through strategy, since magica can just barely rival their raw power.  Two magica could never defeat a level eight on their own."
"Can I ask my real question now?" Rose wondered, and SC gave her a nod in confirmation, "Why haven't you asked me to become a magical girl?"
"Isn't that obvious?" It stared up at her, "You became my friend, as a human.  You put your trust in something like me.  I'm not going to betray that trust by asking you to throw your life away.  You became my friend even knowing the type of creature that I am, I'm not going to play into the fears you may have had about interacting with me."
"Would I be worth it?" Rose asked, then paused and rephrased her question, "I mean, you know how much potential any given human has as a magical being, right?  Would it be worthwhile to make me one, or do I not have enough potential?"
"You have plenty of potential, Rose!" It flicked its tail, sitting up in her lap and looking up at her face, "A ton, actually!  And I know you well enough that I could even tell you what sort of power and weapon you'd probably end up with!  But it really is an awful thing, to be a magica.  We always feel so guilty when we create new ones, but it's better than all of us just starving, and all of this universe being destroyed by monsters at a breakneck pace.  I won't ask you to become a magical girl."
Third Eye
Rose hesitated a moment, bringing a hand up to her cheek, then took a deep breath and spoke again, "There can't be much worse than being a human who remembers monster attacks.  At least if I was a magica, I could do something about them."
"But if you were a magica, you could be killed and stay dead during the attacks."
Rose squeezed her eyes shut and shook her head, "No, I'm going to do it!  I already have to suffer when monsters attack, and I want to be able to help Uamake and Graveyard.  They've been fighting alone for so long."
"If you're sure about it, then I won't try to tell you otherwise.  Just remember that you brought it on yourself and please don't blame me," It moved onto the fence beside her instead, looking her over, "Please, confirm in no uncertain terms your verbal consent to become a magical being."
"I want to become a magical girl.  I understand the ramifications of it and I will not pin any regrets I may have on my distributor friend," Rose confirmed, poking its nose.
"Very well then.  You will become the third protector of the island chain.  And, fittingly enough for that position, you will be Third Eye, the Sniping Magical Girl."
-----------------
Kanoshi was seated across from his father.
Though they'd kept in touch, it had been years since they'd seen each other in person.  Kanoshi was just so busy with work, and his father so busy with avoiding the city at any and all costs.  Those factors didn't exactly gel with each other, but now, here he was.  He didn't understand it.  He hadn't been going north of Tokyo.  He was headed south, to Nagasaki.
"Hello, Kanoshi," Shoyu Kyosuke wasn't the picture of the person who he was.  Nobody meeting him would ever think that he was riddled with anxieties too harsh to leave his hometown; he had a large frame, and his face had two settings.  Gentle, and stern, both strong and nearly-stoic images that would never give the impression that he feared anything, "It's been a while."
"Yeah, Dad.  It has," Kanoshi scratched the back of his head, looking away, "I'm sorry."
"Don't apologize.  I always figured that we'd lose touch when you found somebody to rely on, but instead you only had your career.  You're nearly thirty years old and you've never even had a girlfriend.  Well, as far as you've told me," Shoyu said.
Kanoshi hesitated, but answered with a lie, "That's right.  I'm focusing on my work, that's all.  I don't need anybody to rely on, I just need to be somebody that other people can rely on."
Shoyu groaned, adjusting his hands on the cup of coffee that he held, "That was a test, Kanoshi, and you failed it.  Why can't you just be honest with me?  You know that I'll always support whatever decisions you make."
"Is that support because you support me, or is it because you're too much of a pushover to make the decision not to?" Kanoshi questioned, staring right at his father.  He took a deep breath before he spoke again, "Fine, if you want me to be honest with you, then I will.  I've never had a girlfriend, but since I've moved to Tokyo I've had a few boyfriends.  One was another teacher at Aoba Middle, one was a guy I met at the terrible sweaters store.  I also had a... something with a magical boy, and became one myself."
"I'm disappointed in you," Shoyu said.
"I know," Kanoshi closed his eyes and dipped his head, "Of course you are.  You always said that I'd make a great dad someday."
"Now you never will."
"I know," Kanoshi gave a solemn nod.  That was the truth.  It had always been his plan to, single or not, adopt a child once he was thirty-five.  He'd never pass the background checks as a magical boy, but... "Not legally, anyway."
"Son, I swear, if you steal a baby-" Shoyu started.
Kanoshi shook his head, "I'm not going to steal a baby!  I just mean, if I happened to find some wayward street urchin with nowhere else to go, what's to stop me from Dad-ing that child?  Maybe I can't adopt for real.  I'm okay with that, though.  If it happens, it happens, but I have other people I need to protect now.  You know that as a magical boy, I'm protecting you too, right?"
"I know that much," Shoyu said, leaning back in his chair "Yes, I understand that.  But here's the thing, Kanoshi.  If you needed to tell me all of that a second time, could you do it?  Could you look me in the eyes and say all of those things again?"
Kanoshi hesitated a moment, but steeled himself and gave an answer, "I could.  I don't know why I didn't do it in the f-first place.  I'm not ashamed of who or what I am.  I could say what I just said to you a million times over, to a million different people."
"That's true," Shoyu chuckled, "You could, I can tell.  Because you're strong underneath it all.  Because you're not me."
"I always thought I'd grow up to be just like you," Kanoshi noted, looking around the room, "Warts and all.  That I'd inherit your flaws, but also..."
"But also my virtues.  Unfortunately, you've failed time and time again to live up to the image of me," Shoyu sighed, then stood up from his chair, "But this is a conversation that could do you some good, were you to actually have it, son," With those words, he disappeared right before Kanoshi's eyes.
Kanoshi stared at the space where he had been, then took a deep breath and turned his gaze to the palms of his own hands.  So many people found it an inevitable horror, to end up the same type of person as their parents; he never had.  His father was a good man, and as Kanoshi forged his way on through the world, he began to doubt that he was the same.
Kanoshi stood up from the table and pushed his chair back in, then gathered his own untouched mug of tea (he always hated tea) and his father's, emptied.  He placed them into the sink, knowing his way around well.  This was his childhood home, after all.  He wandered to the nearest window and peered out, seeing that the outside world was vacant.  It was empty, a void.
That just confirmed what his father had said to him.  That wasn't really a conversation.  It was a chat with his own idea of his father, and this was some variety of dream.  It felt awful real for something which objectively wasn't, but who was he to make that call?  Instead, he decided to wander the house and see if there was anything else out of the ordinary.  As far as he was concerned, he was pretty sure he'd just fallen asleep on the next train, though he didn't recall boarding.  That wasn't unusual in any way, though.  It was easy to forget mundane things when dreaming.
Kanoshi took a deep breath as he stepped through the threshold into the hallway, looking down at the archway on the right which pointed into the living room, just beyond a door that belonged to a closet.  The left side had one door and a staircase towards the end, and that door held a bathroom.  Kanoshi doubted anything of interest would be in there, or in the closet, so he walked down the hallway, noting as he went the artwork which hung on the walls.  That was new.  His father never hung a thing on a wall, for fear of hurting the property values if he ever did sell the house.
He stepped into the living room and took a look around.  It seemed... Normal.  Just the same as it had ever been.  Nearly undecorated, just with essential furniture for the most part.  Kind of sad.  Kanoshi at least kept some knicknacks in his own home, and though he'd never gotten something as mature as a painting, he did hang posters and those inspirational canvas things.  With that in mind, he turned back to the hallway and decided to examine that artwork more closely.
They were out of place, and when he looked again, he realized that their subjects were out of place too.  What appeared at first to be simple, idyllic landscapes had something off about them.  There were small figures in the background, and when he squinted, they almost looked like people he knew.  Humans he knew.  As he moved from image to image, none of them were magica he'd met.  Other teachers from Aoba Public Middle, or students who he knew to have moved on to good high schools and, hopefully, good lives.  In these images, they looked mildly distressed.  Not afraid of anything, or distraught, but just a little uncomfortable.
Still, nothing changed when he finished looking through them, so he peered into the living room again, and much to his surprise, he saw two of the three students who'd been taken by the Vagrant Killer sitting there.  Ayano and Hikari.  He took a deep breath, then walked in and sat down directly across from the two of them, folding his hands in his lap, "Hello."
Ayano Ueda
"Hi, Kyosuke-sensei," Ayano greeted him, leaning against Hikari with her feet over the arm of the couch.  She wasn't a little child anymore.  Not an adult, either, but in between.  She was Sayaka's age, after all, though they both had a bizarre youthfulness that a worse man than him might call 'loli'. 
"How've you been?" Hikari asked as well.  She looked a bit more mature than Ayano, though their age was the same, since she lacked that childish quality, "Still teaching at Aoba?"
"I'm afraid not," Kanoshi shook his head with a heavy sigh, "After the incident with the three of you, when something else happened recently I got told I would be fired soon.  Then I became a magical boy, and got fired on the spot."
Ayano nodded, pushing her glasses up, then held out her right hand, showing a question mark on her palm.  Hikari did the same with her left as Ayano spoke again, "That's understandable.  It happens."
"Did you become magical girls to escape the Vagrant Killer?" Kanoshi questioned, looking between the two, "Wait, that doesn't make sense.  Magica didn't exist when Ueda-san first rejoined society..."
Hikari shifted where she sat, "You'll notice that Barasu-kun is missing.  We became magical girls to get revenge on the person who killed him.  I know you always tried to teach us not to hold grudges, sensei, but we couldn't let it slide."
"You... You mean to tell me that he really is dead?" Kanoshi said, leaning forward with his hands pressed to his knees, gripping the caps till his knuckles turned near-white, "He... I always thought, that if Ueda-san was alive, then all three of you were."
"How can you really believe that?  This is a dream and yet, we've told you it," Ayano giggled, bringing a hand up to her mouth, "Which means you believe it in part of your heart.  That is, unless this isn't a dream.  It's up to you, isn't it?"
"Don't say shit like that," Kanoshi shook his head, then froze and covered his mouth with both hands before uttering a sheepish, "Sorry, kids."
"I mean, it doesn't matter if what we're saying is real or not, does it?" Hikari questioned, straightening up, "Regardless of what happened.  We're either dead, or living in Hell.  You let us down, big time.  You let everyone down.  Us, and my brother, and the kids who got killed.  Everyone.  It doesn't matter how hard you tried, I challenge you to find a single person who doesn't feel let down by the school system."
"That's not possible.  It isn't, but that's not the fault of teachers.  I felt left down as a student, and I feel let down now, having been a teacher.  Still..." He sighed, bringing both hands up to his forehead, "You're right about that.  I wasn't as good a teacher as I could have been, and I guess it's probably for the better that I ended up needing to stop when I did.  I can't imagine I would have improved any."
"Do you think you could have saved me?" Another familiar voice sounded behind Kanoshi, and he turned to see Yuuri standing there.  He didn't look normal, however.  There was blood seeping through his clothing, and it seemed as if he was flickering in and out of existence as he stood there, his appearance changing a bit each time.  Occasional he was missing his right arm.  Kanoshi couldn't do anything for a while, just staring at him, trying to process what he was seeing.
"Ruka-san," Kanoshi stood up and walked around the armchair to approach him, brow furrowed in concern as he reached out for him, afraid to actually try and touch him out of concern that his hand would go right through, "What are you talking about?  What happened to you?"
Yuuri shrugged where he stood, leaning toward Kanoshi with a sickening grin, "I never told you that I failed to graduate high school, did I?  Yeah, you helped me get there, but I was too fucked up anyway and I got myself arrested.  Nothing you ever did could have been enough for me, and now I'm practically walking dead.  What happened to me?  What's going to happen to me?  What's the difference, sensei?"
"I guess there isn't any," Kanoshi sighed, shaking his head as he took a step backward, "I don't think I could have saved you, Ruka-san.  There's only so much that I could have done, and I did that much, and that's it.  That's all I've got.  It's not like I could go back in time and keep you from ever getting hurt."
Yuuri brought a hand up to Kanoshi's head, making contact and curling his fingers into his hair, pulling on it uncomfortably while that grin didn't change, "Why would you dare to get close to somebody like me?  Why would you even try?  Why in the world would you seek me out now, long after we knew each other?  Did you seriously think that you could do anything for me?  It's just a matter of time before I kill somebody.  That somebody could be you."
"You'd never do that," Kanoshi froze, staring into Yuuri's eyes.  Somehow, this was beginning to feel less and less like a dream.  It was feeling more real with every passing moment, but it still didn't make sense to him.  These were fake scenarios, that much he knew, but that was where the line blurred.  These weren't the type of worries that he would have come up with himself, even subconsciously.
Yuuri didn't offer an answer to that, and Kanoshi was lucky to see the gleam as he pulled a pocketknife from his jacket, moving directly for Kanoshi's throat.  He pivoted out of the way, then wrenched his head away from Yuuri's hand, turning to dash up the stairs.  As he went, he tore off his eyepatch and tried transforming which, to his surprise, worked.  With his shield, he had nothing to fear.
Downstairs, Hikari and Ayano were cheering Yuuri on as he chased Kanoshi up the stairs, lips pulled back to bear his teeth in a savage and cruel smile.  Kanoshi had to wonder if that was actually how he looked when he got in fights, as a human; he doubted it.  Yuuri had never seemed to derive any sadistic pleasure from fighting monsters, or other magica as it seemed in his short battle with Lionhardt.
For some reason, Kanoshi noted that Yuuri wasn't transforming.  In fact, his image had seemed to settle into the vision of him without a right arm altogether, thus missing his mark.  He bore down on Kanoshi, who blocked the knife swings without much effort at all.  It wasn't difficult, which seemed strange too.  Kanoshi knew that Yuuri's aim was his best combat trait, so it shouldn't have been this easy to deflect his attacks.
Still, he just kept coming.  He kept attacking, until he wasn't anymore.  Kanoshi found himself standing at the head of the stairs, though he'd been sure that he had been backing down the hallway.  On those stairs was Yuuri, sprawled over them midway down.  His limbs were all bent at unnatural angles, excluding of course, the missing arm.  His head was cracked open, the disgusting sound of blood as it dripped all the way down the stairs filling Kanoshi's ears.  He froze and looked at his shield, finding it similarly stained.
He hadn't done that, though.  He was just backing down the hallway, defending against Yuuri's attacks.  He wouldn't counterattack; that wasn't something that he would have done.  His breath caught in his throat as he backed up again, and he jumped in surprise as his back hit the wall behind him, whirling to find it really was just an empty wall.  He took a deep breath, then crept down the hallway again, opening a door to his left which led into what had been his childhood bedroom.  
It was still just the way he left it.  Devoid of most of his belongings, since he'd taken them to Tokyo with him when he'd moved out, but there were a few things about that he'd decided he didn't need to bring.  Extraneous clothing that he rarely wore, for example, leftovers of his high school style, before he discovered the joy of wearing really horrible sweaters and t-shirts with phrases that didn't make sense, when it was too warm for sweaters.
The biggest difference from the way that Kanoshi had left the room was that there was somebody sitting on his bed.  When she turned to look at him, he recognized her as Box Hako.  Her odd, lilac eyes seemed empty and devoid of feeling as she stared at him, seeming to look right through his soul.
"...Hako-san?" Kanoshi questioned as he stepped into the room, lowering his shield and holding up one hand with his palm out toward her.
"Hi sensei," Box gave a slow blink, then swung her legs out over the side of the bed to get to her feet, walking closer to him with deliberate steps, "What are you doing here?"
"This is my dad's house," Kanoshi answered, "I should be asking you that."
Box looked around for a while, then crossed her arms over her chest and turned her gaze to the floor, "I'm hiding.  That's the same reason you're here, right?  You're hiding because you hurt somebody without realizing it."
"That's right," Kanoshi groaned, leaning back against the door, "Well, I don't know what happened.  I don't think I hurt him."
"That doesn't matter," Box brought an arm up and tapped his nose, keeping her finger there, "Even if you knew you didn't hurt him, just thinking that you didn't is even more worthless.  The law isn't going to care."
"I'm above the law," Kanoshi shook his head, "Arresting a magical boy is basically impossible."
"That could change," Box noted, pulling her arm back, then gave him a smile, "But I guess that the police who are downstairs looking for you would be the lesser of two evils, compared to me.  I am a menace to the entire country of Japan, after all.  You have no idea what I could do.  How about I give you a headstart?  Run."
Kanoshi hesitated for only a moment before he turned and opened the door again, this time using the wings which came with his transformation to avoid needing to step over Yuuri's body as he made his way down the stairs, and noted that there were indeed police downstairs.  He barely even glanced at them before he returned to the living room, diving past Ayano and Hikari to crash through the window, out into the void.
There wasn't anything, even after Kanoshi had entered the darkness.  It was really just an endless stretch of nothing, as far as he could tell.  Pitch black.  He couldn't find any walls on either side of him, but there was a floor.  He flew up rather high and couldn't find a ceiling of any type.  With that in mind, Kanoshi continued along through the emptiness.  He floated for a little while, but then landed to walk instead.  Despite his transformation allowing for flight, it was still tiring.
It had almost freaked him out, the first time that he'd flown.  The cartoonish wings that were a part of his costume had full feeling in them, and it would be bizarre for anyone to suddenly have two more limbs than previously.  He'd gotten used to it eventually, but it had been strange at first, and he still preferred using his much more familiar legs.
As Kanoshi made his way through the darkness, he wondered if there was any reason to be out here.  He turned to see the house behind him, but it was gone.  There wasn't even a speck of light in that direction, and he couldn't go back.  Why would he want to go back, though?  There was more for him out in the dark unknown than disappointing familiarity.
After a few more steps, he got the feeling there was something in front of him.  To avoid bumping into it, he stuck his arms out in front of him, and before he'd even fully extended them his fingers brushed against a wall.  So there was something out here.  Kanoshi lifted his right hand to place his palm flat against the thing as he continued walking now, deciding that he should follow the rule of thumb for traversing a maze and cling to one side.
And there was a side to cling to; it was definitely not just one wall sticking out in the middle of nothing.  He just kept moving, following along on the right side.  He kept his shield in his left hand, ready to use it if something happened and he needed to.  It felt like a very long time before anything else happened, and when it did. it startled him.  He was just walking along when suddenly, something wrapped around his ankle.  He turned to see what it was, and found that he was being grasped at by the hand of somebody on their stomach.  He couldn't tell who it was with the lighting like this, though he was certain it was somebody else that he knew.
He kicked his foot and took off, wrenching free of the grip by taking to the air.  As he continued along he looked down at the ground and could see movement in the shadows, assuming that those were more people he'd met before, reaching out to grab at him.  He avoided them by staying up in the air as he moved, still keeping his fingertips against the wall so that he wouldn't end up going in circles.  As he was moving along, he suddenly felt something on his wing.
No, in his wing.  Something pierced straight through his left wing, and he turned his head to see what it was.  A purple sword, and it was glowing.  He hardly had time to realize who that weapon belonged to before he was jerked violently back by it, crashing down onto the floor.  The grasping bodies had disappeared from the ground, but Kanoshi would have almost preferred they hadn't, as it hurt much more to be dragged onto the hard ground.  He squinted at the blade and realized that it had pinned his wing to the floor.
He was breathing heavily now as he struggled against it.  He recognized this sword, of course he did.  It was Horace's.  Why was it here?  Why was he here?  If the sword was moving in this way, it had to be telekinetically controlled by Horace's power, which meant that he needed to be somewhere.  Kanoshi had to remind himself that this was not reality.  Box would not have been inside his father's home, and Yuuri would not have attacked him.  Well, not like that anyway.  Not so badly.  Kanoshi didn't doubt that something could go wrong, but he would never be able to block Yuuri's attacks that easily.
That was the real sticking point that assured him that the Yuuri who attacked him wasn't really him, and that extended to the entire place.  Kanoshi grimaced as he continued trying to free himself,  but he couldn't reach the handle of the sword, and grabbing onto the blade with his hands to try and pull it out would likely just cut his hands clean in half.
Moments later, he felt a weight on his back as a heeled boot dug into the area between his shoulderblades, pinning him down with his cheek pressed to the ground.  He grunted out, "Horace, why are you doing this?"
"Why wouldn't I?" The apparition questioned back in exactly the voice that Kanoshi was expecting of it, "I mean, it's not like you know enough about me to make an educated guess on what I'm capable of.  For all you know, I kidnapped the other magica and went off the grid with them.  The rankings really are arbitrary things, a bad person could get to number one by playing at morals and having enough power."
Kanoshi grimaced at those words.  That was far from what he thought about Horace, too.  More proof that this was a poorly constructed nightmare, but that didn't keep it from being a nightmare.  He spat back, "Yeah, right... If you were the kidnapper, like hell you'd have left me behind.  Maybe you can play at morals, but you can't play at how obsessed with me you were."
The apparition leaned more of its weight against him, and Kanoshi could tell that something in his back would break if this kept up.  He had some healing built up from blocking the fake Yuuri's attacks, which luckily seemed to have held the same level of malicious intent as these current assaults, but he wasn't going to use it until he was freed, since that would just be a waste of power.  The false Horace hissed, "I already ruined your life, I can end it too."
"Like that would have an effect here," Kanoshi taunted back, though he wasn't actually sure.
Fake-Horace pointed his other sword at Kanoshi's eye.  Shit, he forgot there were two swords.  It growled out, "If I killed you here, then you'd never see the light of day again."
Kanoshi had enough of this.  He forced his leg under himself to get some traction against the floor, managing to lay enough of his sole flat against the floor to push off.  The apparition of Horace lost his balance, falling to the floor.  There was a terrible tearing noise as the sword which was pinning Kanoshi's wing down went straight from the center through to one side with the force of his movement.  He'd utilized his free wing to get enough force to manage it, but it was just one burst of movement before he fell over, rolling up against the wall.
He took a deep breath, tightening his grip on his shield as he healed his injuries, though it seemed the damage to his wing would mostly have to heal on its own.  He was able to resolve the damage that had been done by the false magica, but the tear that he'd created in his escape was an injury with an altogether different intent that he couldn't resolve with his powers.  There were some limits to it, after all.
Much to his surprise, the image of Horace didn't pursue him, seeming to have disappeared in full.  Moments later, the wall behind Kanoshi but a little further to his left lit up in a bright explosion, which in the flash of light, revealed behind him the grasping bodies, now clearly corpses.  Among them he spotted a number of magica besides Horace; There were the ones that he knew personally, excluding Yuuri.  Sayaka in particular looked to have died a gruesome death; there were also some he'd never met, and the one he'd met for only a few moments, Lionhardt.
Somehow, looking at all of these, he felt a heavy guilt.  He didn't know why; for some of them, it was simple, he'd made promises to protect the people close to him.  Why should he feel guilty to see the body of someone who'd only met him in combat for a few moments of vicious attacks?  He didn't have long to think about it, because in the faint glow of the lingering flames on the heavy wooden wall was his father.
"Come on, Kanokun," The voice didn't belong to the man who spoke, but it was a comforting one nonetheless, and Kanoshi stood to follow him without hesitation.